Proposed downtown development to bring a feel of uptown to Sequim
By Diane Urbani de la Paz,
Peninsula Daily News
May 22, 2007
SEQUIM - The latest development proposed in Sequim sounds to city officials like exactly what downtown needs.
The three-story, 38,000-square-foot retail-office-condominium complex known as Elk Plaza would take shape on East Washington Street alongside the Clallam Co-op, if all goes as Sequim-based ADR Developers plans.
The project complies with the Sequim Municipal Code, and so all that's needed for it is a building permit.
It could transform the city core, said city Capital Projects Manager Frank Needham, who has had conceptual discussions with ADR principals Karl Allen and John Rigg.
The project's cost is hard to determine at this point, Rigg said, since the building will be finished according to tenants' needs.
But he estimated that it would be "in the $3 million to $4 million bracket."
Elk Plaza would be built on the site where an apartment building burned down almost exactly two years ago.
Its architect is Roy Hellwig of Sequim, also a designer of the Longhouse cultural center to open later this year at Peninsula College in Port Angeles.
All in walking distance
Elk Plaza, Hellwig said, would be all about walking - to work, to shop, to dine and, he hopes, to the parks and plazas envisioned by city planners.
Six condos, most of which Hellwig said would have water or mountain views, would perch atop the Elk Plaza building.
On the ground level, boutiques would be flush with the sidewalk.
And on the second floor, ADR wants to house professional offices - and more shops, to lure people upstairs and across a catwalk that will lead to Elk Plaza's second phase, a two-story restaurant at the corner of Washington Street and Sunnyside Avenue.
Yet the building wouldn't rise above the city's 35-foot height limit, Hellwig said, adding that he anticipates no obstacles in the path to construction.
"We hope to start building in August," he said. The complex could be finished by summer 2008.
The Elk Plaza design features an atrium, fountains, hanging gardens and a circular stairway rising to the second floor, Hellwig said.
He's designing for pedestrian flow, to keep downtown alive.
"The idea is to circulate people, just like a shopping mall. You need continuous storefronts," he said.
"Pedestrian flow is like blood flow. If you block it, everything dies.
"That's one of the problems with downtown Port Angeles. They have gaps that are like blocked arteries."
Needham agreed. Elk Plaza's configuration, he said, will encourage people to walk downtown instead of driving, relieving some of Washington Street's congestion.
And it will provide housing in the city center, with parking in the rear of the building so that sidewalks can be broadened.
Meets city's master plan
"It appears this will meet the needs and concerns of the city and the [downtown] sub-area plan," said Needham, principal author of the Sequim Comprehensive Plan, the guiding document for growth over the next decade.
There is one thing, however, that city leaders say Sequim needs but that doesn't appear to be in the Elk Plaza plans: low-priced housing.
The condos, at 1,200 to 2,700 square feet, will be "upscale," Hellwig said.
As for the shops, ADR wants to bring in a florist, an ice cream-and-espresso cafe and other shops with enticing window displays.
The restaurant next door will have outdoor dining, added Hellwig. He'd like to see a downtown shuttle bus bringing pedestrians to Elk Plaza's doorsteps.
Meanwhile, Sequim's "town center" sub-area plan continues to take shape, and Needham said its latest revisions will be presented to the Planning Commission in June.
The document blends city planners - and community members - prescriptions for a healthy city center: shops, offices and housing knit tightly together, with sidewalks and plazas that persuade people to get out of their cars.
It's an antidote to the west side's big boxes, strip malls and enormous parking lots. Those are largely designed for driving up, going in, coming out and driving away - so there's no strolling, no window-shopping, no small-town feeling, he said.
Needham added that he wants to work with Clallam Transit on enhanced downtown bus service.
Also on the horizon, he said, is a new ordinance allowing buildings to go higher than the current 35-foot limit over much of Sequim.
"For the city to meet the requirements of the Growth Management Act and our own Comprehensive Plan, we have to have taller buildings," Needham said.
"It's not going to be unrealistic to have five-story buildings in this city."
At the same time, Needham praised the Elk Plaza concept, calling it "a destination."
The complex's tenants, he believes, will be "places people want to go: boutique shops that draw people in.
"I think the developers saw the sub-area plan and said, Hey, this is something we can do."
Sequim Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or email@example.com.